Holidays come to life at Westminster

By Anthony Baron

As the nights grow longer and the days grow shorter, it is visible to every member of the Rider community that winter is here. In addition to the hustle and bustle of buying holiday presents, putting up wreaths all over the Westminster and Lawrenceville campuses and writing final exams and papers, the students of the Westminster College of the Arts’ Westminster Choir College (WCC) have put together a set of concert performances over the next three weeks that should entertain, amuse and awaken the joy of the holiday season.

Tonight, WCC’s Westminster Opera Theatre will perform a production of W. A. Mozart’s opera Il re pastore. Written when the composer was just 25 years old, it tells a tale of power and love. The opera also provides a unique role for the instruments.

“The orchestra is an integral part to the story, conveying and reflecting the mood of the characters,” said sophomore Dorothy Shrader, the opera’s stage manager.

With music direction by Daniel Beckwith, stage direction by Marc Verzatt and a cast of six WCC students, this performance aims to be an evening of beautiful singing and elegant storytelling. Performances are tonight and tomorrow night in the WCC Playhouse at 8 and are free for all Rider students, faculty and staff.

Also this weekend, the world-renowned Westminster Concert Bell Choir will perform under the direction of Professor Kathleen Ebling-Thorne. The performance, entitled “Christmas of the Americas,” will bring a creative approach to Christmas music.

“It was really interesting to have the opportunity to learn and play Christmas songs from different parts of the world that I have never heard before,” said sophomore Natalie Barney. “Not to say we don’t have the usual Christmas songs, too.”

The Concert Bell Choir performs Saturday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 7, at 4 p.m. in WCC’s Bristol Chapel. The event is free for the Rider community.

Monday, Dec. 8, marks the Westminster Symphonic Choir’s return to Avery Fisher Hall in New York City for a special one-night performance of the second symphony of Mahler. This performance will be conducted by Maestro Gilbert Kaplan, who spent over 30 years researching this piece. Tickets may be purchased by calling (212) 875-5656 or by going to the Lincoln Center Web site at

On Friday, Dec. 12, and Saturday, Dec. 13, WCC’s annual holiday performance “An Evening of Readings and Carols” returns to the Princeton community. This ever-popular holiday favorite held at the Princeton University Chapel includes performances by the Westminster Chapel Choir, Westminster Schola Cantorum and Westminster Williamson Voices, as well as the renowned professional brass ensemble “Solid Brass.” The concert will include choral anthems such as a Gloria by John Rutter, as well as traditional hymns sung by the choirs and audience. Taking place in the middle of final exams, this event is the last experience of a semester’s worth of choral study for freshmen and sophomore students at WCC. Tickets for this event may be purchased by visiting the Rider University Arts Web site:

Even after the semester officially ends, WCC students will be busy performing Dec. 17-20. Members of the Westminster Symphonic Choir will be at Avery Fisher Hall performing Handel’s Messiah with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of baroque-music scholar Ton Koopman. This holiday classic includes the famous “Hallelujah” chorus in which the audience rises, a tradition that started when King George II of England stood during an early performance. Tickets to this event may be purchased by calling (212) 875-5656 or by going to the Lincoln Center’s Web site.

The Westminster College of the Arts’ School of Fine and Performing Arts will also have several events taking place during this time, including a holiday concert by Rider faculty members Jerry Rife and Phillip Orr, a combined concert by the Rider University Choir and Rider Chapel Choir and a faculty recital in the Rider Art Gallery.

More information about these events can be found at

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